tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 3, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
on the broadcast tonight, the crackdown in cairo. there's been new violence, but there's also been a new campaign of intimidation in egypt, cracking down on journalists. we'll update you on all of it tonight, including the 76-year-old american woman trapped in her apartment on the square and defending herself. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television and good evening tonight from amman, jordan, where a protest is planned for tomorrow just like in syria, just like in
cairo where the violence went on again today and the situation continued to descend into chaos in that square. but we just couldn't see as much of it. we were able to get these images of the fighting there today. journalists are among those now being attacked. this started yesterday and it's getting worse. it's an effort whipped up in part by the egyptian government. quickly tonight, we have some of the numbers the state department says they have now evacuated over 2,000 americans. the toll from this violence said to be ten dead, at least 800 wounded, but we believe those are conservative numbers, likely to go higher. egypt's president mubarak said in an interview today if he resigns now, there would be chaos. members of our team remain in place tonight. richard engle and lester holt have been forced off the streets because some in the crowd are now searching out media and cameras to shut them down, so
we're doing this with low light level and minimum production touches. richard, start off our reporting with what happened there today. >> reporter: good evening, brian. the demonstrators are still in tahrir square tonight. all day we've been watching them hunkered down, preparing their defenses ahead of a major demonstration and possible clashes tomorrow. downtown cairo was again a battleground today. tahrir square has become a primitive, fortified camp for demonstrators. demanding that president mubarak resign. the demonstrators hide behind metal shields to throw rocks at mubarak supporters who attacked the protesters from the edges of the square. it's a bizarre scene with protesters defending the square with molotov cocktails and even firebombs, like a medieval castle under siege. last night the protesters had to
fight hard to hold the square, fending off hundreds of molotov cocktails and gunfire. several protesters were killed. for the army, the gunfire was too much. a tank rolled between the two sides, laying down a smoke screen to protect the demonstrators. today the army sent more soldiers to stand between competing demonstrations, acting as human shields. the troops did reduce the violence significantly, giving protesters time to treat the injured in makeshift infirmaries. witnesses say there are hundreds of injured in the square, bruises, broken bones, burns. the protesters accuse president mubarak of starting yesterday's fight by sending goon squads to attack unarmed demonstrators. today mubarak and his vice president both denied that, and mubarak claimed in an interview with abc news that he is relieved not to be running again, but said "if i resign
today, there will be chaos." and today, brian, there was a different kind of crackdown, this one against journalists in this country. dozens have been harassed, beaten and detained by both the secret police and mubarak supporters. the thinking is the government here does not want cameras watching as that protest unfolds tomorrow. brian. >> richard, i actually heard a government official interviewed on media today telling the people of egypt that it's these media, especially foreign media sources that are fomenting some of this. this is going to make it very difficult to get this story out. >> reporter: it seems clear that the government is once again sending a message to its people, foreign journalists, the muslim brotherhood and big business are somehow involved in a major conspiracy to incite violence in this country. that message was put on national television today by the vice president.
he accused foreign journalists of trying to bring this country to its knees and clearly people in the secret police and mubarak supporters took that message seriously and were hunting down reporters all day today. >> all right, richard. i want to take us both back to something that happened really seemingly just a few hours ago. last night in cairo, the thunder of heavy automatic weapons rocked the downtown area, as did the sound of crashing metal, breaking glass, flash bang grenades and warriors in the crowd. there were fires burning, hundreds of molotov cocktails and burning cars. we started describing the action when the shooting started. then i later joined richard engle in a safe location above the fighting, much of which was carried live on msnbc last nighm for hours on end. >> we're on a building overlooking the square. live gunfire going on.
it's developing just sort of right below us right now so it's difficult to figure out what is happening. you just saw someone hit by a molotov cocktail who was trying to put himself out so they are no longer contained. this is what you can describe as running street battles. >> that's small arms, but it's close to our location, what we're hearing now. the big throaty cacophonous blasts, sometimes in bursts of three, is from the apc-mounted .50 caliber. >> that tank is once again on the move. ejecting this smoke screen as it goes. it did have an impact. it did allow some people to escape. emotions are clearly very high. what they do with the smoke screen is to allow people to leave under cover. so if the idea was to allow the supporters of president mubarak to leave without being lynched
by the protesters, then this move appears to have been successful. >> there's no question the population in front of us has dropped, but there's still all these souls standing in this face-off. they're swarming a pickup truck down here. eìáhp &hc& overpass where thedc5ru(áy it's mad max. >> we have seen the disorganized retreat under cover fire from the army, and now we're in a very dangerous time as no one really knows who's in charge. the protesters are looking for people. they found this driver. who knows who this driver is. this driver may not be a government supporter at all. he may just be someone who got caught up in this mess. they are angry and this is a very uncertain time. >> this is pretty extraordinary. this is a time of heavy caliber automatic weapons fire. richard became enured to after six or seven years in baghdad,
we've both heard it in afghanistan. you don't expect it in cairo. there's a tracer going, desperation fighting now. in some cases 20 feet separates these two sides. the sun can't come up fast enough for cairo. our description from what we assumed to be a safe perch, turned out it was above that automatic weapons fire and the fighting in the streets last night. and now we want to go back to cairo and over to lester holt, who today picked up on a story we first reported on in cairo last night and we received a ton of e-mail about it back in new york today. it's about the 76-year-old american woman, a great grandmother named mary thornberry who retired, moved to cairo years ago to study egyptian history. then she got trapped in her apartment on the square and was forced to defend herself inside her own apartment. lester, what did you learn about her and her story today?
>> reporter: brian, it's a remarkable story a lot of our viewers have followed it. we have been in contact with her throughout the day to find out how she is doing. those of us who are here by choice, it's difficult enough being on the sidelines of this conflict. but imagine in her case where she is simply a victim of circumstances. 76-year-old american retiree mary thornberry is facing another night trapped in her apartment, facing an even worse situation. >> i found out i no longer have water. >> reporter: today her son, who from back home in the u.s. first alerted us to her plight, said fast-moving events simply outpaced his elderly mom's ability to act in time. >> the problem is buses aren't running, she can't get a taxi, she can't walk her way through the mob. zv >> reporter: this morning we made arrangements to meet mary face to face and, if it was safe, we would offer to escort her out. she was nervous about another night under siege. >> sometimes i just hear this huge sound and sometimes the
chant would be "mubarak, mubarak, mubarak" sometimes it will be "elbaradei, elbaradei, elbaradei." >> reporter: by the light of day it was clear the challenge of reaching her apartment just a quarter of a mile away was exponentially higher. we decided to test the waters anyway, venturing out onto streets that hours earlier had been the scene of ferocious battles. just seeing and hearing the smoke, that's the area where we think mary's apartment is. >> they're fighting right there. they're saying don't go any further. >> reporter: just minutes later, we witnessed this. i broke the news to mary over the phone. >> we can't put you or our folks at risk. >> oh, heavens no. >> reporter: after we featured her story on "today" this morning, the u.s. embassy contacted us on how to reach mary and are trying to help her. back in washington today, a state department spokesman responded to a question about her situation. >> where we can be helpful, we, of course, will dispatch
directly assistance or we'll try to work with the host government where we can to help them. >> reporter: tonight there is more fighting in mary's neighborhood. she says her spirits are down, but her ire is clearly still up. >> i'm really getting quite angry, and it's just as well that no one should come and stick their face in my broken glass because i'm apt to whop them with my rolling pin. >> reporter: she can almost tell who has the upper hand in the square at any given time based on the chants she hears. brian, she says she has plenty of food and bottled water so she's fine for now. the good news is at this hour it's rather quiet here. we haven't heard any gunfire for some time. >> wouldn't want to go up against mary, lester. as you point out, the good news is a lot of people are trying to help, including yourself, so thanks for that. thanks to lester holt and richard engle for their reporting, starting us off here tonight. all of this raises the question as this crisis wears on and
mubarak is clearly not listening to the u.s. suggestion which is getting stronger every day that he step down now. what else can the united states do? our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell, in washington tonight with some new reporting on that front. andrea, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. well, there is growing concern about more violence tomorrow, as you know. officials say that president obama wants to flood the zone. increase international pressure on mubarak. vice president biden has now called egypt's vice president urging restraint. other world leaders calling mubarak include russia's dmitry medvedev and germany. they believe the military holds the key to persuading mubarak to give up power. what would come next? experts have told the administration the muslim brotherhood has to be part of any political coalition and that the united states should even reach out to them now. the administration says it will not. even though some elements in the brotherhood have pledged to preserve the peace treaty with israel. the big fear is that continued
chaos would open the door to al qaeda which had its roots in egypt. there are reports egypt's army has increased its patrols along its borders. also today at an intelligence committee hearing, an official testified the white house had been warned late last year of instability in egypt but couldn't pinpoint what trigger might topple the regime, brian. >> all new territory for everyone involved. of andrea mitchell in our d.c. newsroom, thanks. >> again, we're here in amman where because of this wave, this spark of uprising here in the middle east, the feeling starting in tunisia, spreading across the region that, we may be on the brink of some sort of big change. the king here in jordan suddenly decided this week to change his government before even the suggestion of it was forced on him. our own martin fletcher is here with us. he's a veteran of the middle east, but, martin, i think it's fair to say none of us have any experience in what we're seeing happen right now. >> reporter: absolutely, brian, this is new territory for everybody, including the king of
jordan today. today the king and prime minister of jordan met with thed leaders of the muslim brotherhood for the first time in a decade. the first official meeting in ten years, another sign they're hoping to avoid egypt's meltdown. the call is spreading, "down with the regime." more demonstrations in yemen today. tens of thousands in several cities, calling on their president to leave after 32 years in power. but also spreading demonstrations in his support. no clashes in yemen so far, though. another sign more arab governments are getting the message. in algeria, the government today promised it would end its 19-year state of emergency, quote, soon. and in gaza today, more peaceful support for egypt's anti-government movement. with protests against their own government planned this weekend in syria, encouraged on facebook. 13,000 people like a page called "the syrian revolution."
jordan's calls for political change at home have also been quiet but determined. >> the myth of the strength of the regime has disappeared and i that has given people a -- the courage to speak again. >> reporter: everywhere, the same call, for political change, more jobs, cheaper food. we were shown around a poor neighborhood in jordan's capital. almost none of the men here are working, he says, and there's no unemployment money, no medical insurance, no future pension. the poor are on their own. this man is 34 and unmarried. he says he can't afford it. >> you have to be careful in your dream. >> reporter: as president mubarak said this week, within ten years, 100 million arab young men and women will be unemployed. also serving notice on the governments across the region, they won't take it lying down
any more. poor people here wanted these things for decades, brian, jobs, food, dignity. what's new now is they're saying it out loud and in this part of the world, that's a huge thing. >> as you said to me before the broadcast, we may be back here a lot in the weeks and months to come. martin fletcher, thanks as always. we'll take a break. when we come back, the big story back home in the u.s. after the storm, the major mess. cleaning up from one of the biggest blizzards ever and coping with the deep freeze to boot.
back in the u.s. we go. in the wake of one of the biggest blizzards the country has seen, an arctic air mass has brought record cold temperatures as far south as arizona, north through the middle of the country where minus signs and single digits are just about everywhere. air traffic picking back up slowly after a standstill. about 16,000 flights have been cancelled this week.
2,000 of those today alone. leaving the stranded passengers coast to coast. our own kevin tibbles is back w3 out in it again tonight on frozen michigan avenue in chicago. kevin, good evening once again. >> reporter: well, brian, first the big whiteout, now the big digout. and temperatures are getting dangerously cold. today chicago came back to life one scoop at a time. >> in the future i'm going to b÷ looking for indoor parking. >> reporter: traffic is moving again on lakeshore drive, where just yesterday hundreds of cars were entombed in snow. send complaints my way, says the mayor. >> sure they can blame me. >> is that fair? >> that's life. >> reporter: at o'hare airport today, another thousand flights canceled as airlines scramble to get back to normal. >> hopefully i'll be back home tonight. it's not worth traveling if you know there's a storm where you're headed. >> reporter: more than 16,000 cancellations nationwide so far
this week. >> it's what happens when you have a massive storm, a historic massive storm. i think they all did a great job. >> reporter: some at denver's bus station have been stuck three days. >> it feels like a century. >> reporter: those with young children forced to improvise. >> you've just got to do whatever you can do to make it work and stuff. >> reporter: in tucson, a century-old record fell when the mercury plummeted to 18 degrees. >> this is for the history books. this morning two people drowned when a truck plunged off an icy bridge into the oklahoma river. at least 12 people have lost their lives in weather-related accidents since the blizzard struck. the next concern, frigid, arctic air. >> it is not over yet. it will stay below average for areas east of the rockies through the weekend and next week another arctic outbreak bringing dangerously cold temperatures. >> reporter: the sheer weight of the snow has caused numerous buildings to collapse, sending owners to the roof with snow blowers and shovels. for chicago kids, though, today
was another snow day, and for them snow is for playing in. and, brian, those kids better enjoy their freedom while they can. it is back to school tomorrow. brian. >> right what we're flying into. kevin tibbles in chicago, thanks. when we come back, a subject president obama would very much like to put to rest.
captain mark kelly, husband of congresswoman gabby giffords, who continues to recover from a gunshot wound. captain kelly, of course, an astronaut, active duty navy. he delivered the closing prayer and said he hoped some good would come out of his wife's ordeal. the president for his part spoke in unusually personal terms about his own faith. he made reference to the opinion polls and the false reports over the years that he's somehow not a christian. >> my christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years. all the more so when michelle and i hear our faith questioned from time to time. we are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us, but whether we're being true to our conscience and true to our god. >> the president went on to say his most frequent and serious
coming here tomorrow in jordan but the big one as billed where you are tomorrow in cairo. >> reporter: this is the second mass demonstration that the protest movement has called for, and how much has changed. the last one, when they asked for a million people to gather in cairo, saw barbecues, they saw people having picnics and music. now the protesters in tahrir square are making weapons. they are even fashioning crude helmets. they are preparing not only to have their message heard, but also for the possibility of renewed urban battle. >> all right, richard engle in cairo. stay safe, friend. same to all our team there. again, with these restrictions on reporting the news and cameras from various media sources, it's getting very tougher to get the story out. as for us, that is our broadcast for this thursday evening. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we've been reporting tonight ?ky from amman, jordan.